Home > Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(2)

Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(2)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

It was a Thursday evening near the end of April. Thursday was the regular movie night at my house, and I was helping my vampire roommate, Molly, pick up the living room. It was Molly’s turn to pick what we watched, and she had surprised me by opting for an Ingrid Bergman mini-marathon instead of her usual romantic comedies. Jesse, who often joined us if the movies weren’t too girly, was coming by for the second feature, Notorious, after he finished having dinner at his parents’ house.

“Scarlett!” Molly’s voice was exasperated, and I blinked myself back to attention.

I realized she’d been talking to me. “Sorry, what?”

“I said, are you okay? You’re pale again, and you’ve been folding the same blanket for, like, five minutes. Do you need the puke bucket?”

I made a sour face. I was very over the puke bucket. “No, it’s not that. I was just . . . thinking of Jameson.”

This was actually the truth. A month and a half earlier, I’d gone to Las Vegas on a freelance job and encountered a fellow null, Jameson. He had been killed, for a lot of reasons that weren’t my fault, but also a little bit because I’d been too slow and dumb to save him. For weeks, I’d been struggling to come out of the worst of my grief and guilt, but having the pregnancy tests in the house kept forcing my thoughts back to Jameson. Stupid tapeworm.

Molly looked contrite. “I’m sorry. Do you want me to hold off on the movie?” She held up her DVD copy of Gaslight.

I’d ruined a lot of the week for both her and Jesse with my illness, and I didn’t want to ruin movie night, too. Fuck it. “No, it’s fine. I’m just gonna go to the bathroom.” The tests were going to be negative whenever I took them, so what did it matter what time of day it was?

A few minutes later, I swung the bathroom door open, shuffling into the living room like the living dead . . . which was appropriate, since my ability to form thoughts had suddenly vanished.

“Scarlett?” Molly’s voice seemed to come from far away, though it was just the other side of the room.

I shook my head, not really hearing her. “I don’t know how to . . . this is so . . . so.” I didn’t have the words. I didn’t have any words.

Looking panicked, Molly vaulted off the couch and rushed over to me, grasping my arms. “What happened?” she asked, searching my face. “Did someone hurt you?”

In answer, I held up my fist, clenched so tightly that my knuckles ached, so Molly could see the test.

“I’m pregnant.”

It’s remarkably difficult to leave a vampire speechless, especially one who’s lived for more than a hundred years. After so many decades of witnessing the best and the worst of humanity, it’s practically impossible to surprise them.

At least, I always thought it was, until I found the two words that got the job done.

Molly just stared at me for a loooooong moment, her eyes huge. “You’re pregnant?” my roommate repeated, completely dumbfounded. “With a baby?”

I blinked. “God, I hope so.”

“But nulls are sterile,” she insisted. “Everybody knows that.”

“Except, apparently, my uterus.” I sat down heavily on the couch, drawing my knees up to my chest. “I guess maybe things change when two nulls . . . get together.”

“Oh. Oh.” Her eyes widened. “You and Jameson.”

I nodded. Molly knew that I’d been upset over his death, and she wasn’t stupid: she’d probably suspected that we’d slept together. But I’d never actually confirmed it, and she hadn’t put me on the spot by asking.

“It’s gotta be a false positive, though,” Molly said doubtfully. “That’s a thing, right? That happens on TV all the time.”

“I took three tests. And I’ve been sick.” And come to think of it . . . “And I guess I missed my period.”

“You don’t keep track?”

I gave her a look. “Why would I? Nulls are sterile.”

“Right.” She sat down next to me on the edge of the couch. “Um. Are you . . . okay?”

“No, not really.”

At twenty-seven, I had finally gotten used to the idea that I would never be a mother. For years, I had told myself that I didn’t really want kids anyway, and that my life was too complicated and dangerous. I had thought I was past wanting a child of my own . . . but even now, a terrifying joy was enveloping me from the inside out, like water spreading across ancient paper. The strength of it scared me.

“Are you gonna keep it?” Molly asked. Trust her to get right to the crux of the problem.

“I don’t know,” I said honestly. “Right now I’m just kind of scared shitless.”

Molly looked at me in that way she had, as though I were a science experiment in her personal lab. “Why? I mean, I get why women are afraid of never sleeping again and gaining weight and all that. But isn’t this pretty much what you’ve secretly been wanting?”

I shook my head. “You don’t get it. This isn’t a Lifetime movie, and I’m not a human. What if the baby is a null, like me? Or what if it’s born a witch? Hell, what if it’s born with no magic at all, but someone uses it to get to me?” I hugged my knees closer to my chest. “Any way you slice it, this baby would be in danger for most of its life. And that’s completely apart from the fact that I’m single, there’s no such thing as nocturnal day care, and I haven’t so much as held an infant since I was about twelve.” Emotions rose up in me, and I found myself suddenly trying to swallow sobs. When I was sure I could speak, I added softly, “And Jameson is dead, and I’m scared that every time I look at this kid, I’ll remember that I didn’t save him.”

She looked at me for another long, quiet moment. “Okay,” Molly conceded. “You make some solid points.”

I sniffed a little, trying to calm myself down. “Besides,” I went on, swiping at my eyes with the back of a hand, “what do you think would happen if Dashiell and the others find out they’ve got the world’s only pregnant null?”

Molly thought about that for a moment. “They’d try to keep it quiet,” she said finally. “They’d lock you away until the baby’s born, and then Dashiell would pressure you to give it up for adoption, for its safety and yours.”

This was pretty much the same conclusion I had reached, but it didn’t help to have it confirmed. “Exactly. And if I give up my baby to strangers, I can’t protect it if it does turn out to be Old World.” I held out my hands. “I’m stuck.” Tears threatened to spill down my cheeks again. “Unless I get an abortion. Then this whole thing goes away.”

She gave me a sympathetic look. “And you’ll never get another chance to have a kid.”

That wasn’t true, of course; I could still adopt a baby someday. But I knew what Molly meant: I would probably never get another chance to have my own personal uterine miracle. I only knew of a handful of nulls on the planet, and the only other male of reproductive age was (a) in Scotland, and (b) married.

“What do you want to do?” Molly asked softly. “I mean, you’re not very far along, right? You’ve got time.”

I gave her a pitying look, and she shook her head, not needing me to say it. “No, you don’t. Because you told me, and Dashiell will expect me to report this to him ASAP. I don’t really give a fuck if I get in trouble for keeping your secrets, but I’m guessing you do care.”

“Damn right. You can’t lie to him.”

She slumped so her head was nearly level with the back of the couch. “Probably not, no.”

We were being literal. Molly had sworn allegiance to Dashiell, the cardinal vampire of the city. That kind of oath had actual power in the Old World. If he really pushed her, and I wasn’t there to keep everybody human, he could actually force her to tell him the truth.

A tide of hopelessness threatened to overwhelm me, and I felt myself trying to swallow back tears. This was too much. This was all way past too much.

Molly saw the look on my face and pushed out a breath. She sat up again. “Okay. I think we need to figure out what you’re having. If it’s a normal human baby, that’s a very different prospect than . . . something else.”

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